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An antibiotic that’s easier on the gut microbiome

May 24, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Senior Editor
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Researchers are working to develop an antibiotic that targets only the bacteria making people sick. And the results published online ahead print in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy are promising.

Broad-spectrum antibiotics fight infections by killing all the bacteria, including the trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that cover the body and line the intestines to form the microbiome. The microbiome is essential for proper nutrition and immune function. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is working on a targeted antibiotic treatment for Staphylococcus aureus (staph). Methicilin-resistant staphylococcus aurerus (MRSA) is a common cause of skin infections in hospitals.

“In this study, we demonstrated that the pathogen-selective approach to antibiotic development is an effective way to minimize collateral damage to beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome,” says author Charles Rock, PhD, a member of the St. Jude Department of Infectious Disease in a statement. “Such treatment strategies will become increasingly important for use in antibiotic drug design thanks to the growing awareness of the vital role that the gut microbiome plays in digestion and immune protection.”

Researchers studied the gut microbiome of mice on four common broad-spectrum oral antibiotics compared to the experimental drug Debio 1452, which works by blocking the enzyme Fabl that is essential for the growth and spread of staph. Debio 1452 did not lead to significant reductions in microbiome quantity in mice and only minor changes in bacterial diversity. The drug is being developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Debiopharm International.

The research was funded in part by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, Debiopharm and the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude.

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